Thursday, January 13, 2011

Three for Thursday: Controversy Over 'Chinese Mothering,' Teens on TV & 'The Middle's' Little Brick

Image credit: Wall Street Journal
Item #1: Controversy Over ‘Chinese Mothering’

Amy Chua wrote a book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It’s about how she started off her life as a mother of two girls as a very strict, “traditional Chinese” mother, like her parents before her. By the end of the book – in which Chua says she gets her “comeuppance” – Chua says she realized she wanted to “retreat . . . from the strict immigrant model” of raising her daughters, according to an interview she gave to the Wall Street Journal.

However the Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt of the first part of Chua’s book, when Chua was describing being fully bought into the strict, no messin’ around style of parenting that believes that children are strong and need to be pushed, not coddled or allowed to choose the direction of their lives. Outside of the context of the whole book -- and without knowing that Chua says she’s “not exactly the same person at the end of the book” -- Chua seems extremely domineering. Combine that excerpt with the headline (which Chua didn’t chose) “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior,” and you'll see why folks went nuts on the internet, calling Chua every variation on "Mommy Dearest" which they could come up with. Here are some excerpts which’ll give you a sense of why people were outraged by what ran in the Journal:

“Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.”
Then there was the anecdote about Chua's then-7-year-old who was having trouble with a piano piece and, after the girl and her mom worked on it “nonstop for a week” and the daughter wanted to give up, Chua ordered her back to the piano:

“Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have ‘The Little White Donkey’ perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, ‘I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?’ I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.”

On the "Chinese" parental approach, Chua said:

“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and improve from it.”

Then, in response to the thousands upon thousands of (largely) negative comments and internet ire, Chua gave an interview to the Journal and other media outlets attempting to establish some context.

Chua told Time Magazine:

“I didn’t write this book to tell people how to parent. In fact, I wrote this book in a moment of crisis. I was raised by extremely strict but extremely loving Chinese immigrant parents. To this day I adore them and I feel I owe them everything. I tried to raise my children the same way. My daughter rebelled against this kind of parenting and I felt like my family was falling apart. So the book is about many of the strengths I see in that kind of parenting, but it’s also about the mistakes.”

Item #2: Teens on TV

As The Girl and The Eldest Boy enter the year in which they’ll turn 13, I’ve found myself paying closer attention to all things teen-related. And while watching TV lately – particularly shows like Parenthood and Men of a Certain Age, as well as the long-ago canceled Once and Again – I’m left wondering if raising teens will really be as challenging and scary as these show lead me to believe it will be.

I’d much prefer to believe that it’s more akin to the Gilmore Girls’ Lorelai and Rory, where the mom and the daughter are close, can joke around and enjoy similar music, movies and TV shows. But even in Gilmore Girls’ idyllic Stars Hollow world, there was at least one several months-long rift between Lorelai and Rory . . . so I guess anticipating acrimony might be a more prudent choice.
Thus, the way in which raising teens is dramatized by primetime TV shows is the focus of my latest pop culture and politics column over on Mommy Tracked.

Image credit: ABC
Item #3: The Middle & ‘Little Brick’

The Middle exacted retribution on the self-centered teenage Axl by giving him an assignment where he had to carry around a computerized baby doll that monitored how he cared for it for a class grade.

“What do babies have to do with sex?” Axl groused as the doll, which he'd stuffed in his backpack, wailed.

“They ruin it,” his mother Frankie replied.

As Axl lost sleep and tried to pawn pff his baby, which he nicknamed “Little Brick,” on his parents and sister by fruitlessly attempting to invoke familial guilt, accidentally decapitated the doll as his parents got a kick out of his misery.

“When do kids become less annoying?” Axl whined.

His father Mike quipped, “I’ll let you know.”

Image credits: Erin Patrice O’Brien/Wall Street Journal and Bruce Birmelin/ABC.

No comments:

Post a Comment